Blackhawks fans were (hopefully) keeping an eye on players with a future in Chicago while the NHL playoffs were going on this weekend. The Rockford IceHogs had a playoff matchup against their rivals from Rosemont, the Chicago Wolves.
In what might be the most fitting way for the 2021-22 season(s) to come to an end for the collective Blackhawks organization, the IceHogs were unceremoniously swept out of the AHL’s postseason by the Wolves. And none of the three games was close.
Rockford lost the first game on Thursday night in Rosemont 6-2. Games 2 and 3 were both settled by 4-1 final scores; the second game of the series was in Rosemont and the finale was in Rockford. The best-of-five wound up being a quick three-game set with the Wolves needing to spend only one day in beautiful Rockford, IL before moving on to the next round.
The Wolves were 2-for-7 on the power play in just the first game of the series; the line to the press box was longer than the one for the men’s room at the Allstate Arena. The IceHogs had four power plays in the first game and came up empty.
Arvid Söderblom got the hook after two periods in the first game after a lot of talk — including here — that his play down the stretch was opening eyes with the Blackhawks. That first game performance isn’t likely to change the optimism about his future, but he didn’t have a great series to close out the season. Söderblom did, however, pick up an assist on the IceHogs’ only goal of the second game of the series, setting up Alec Regula for his first career AHL playoff goal.
The third and final game of the series was on Sunday. Ian Mitchell scored the only goal for the IceHogs; Söderblom picked up his second assist of the series. Wyatt Kalynuk, who is now headed to restricted free agency, also had a helper on Mitchell’s goal. The Wolves were 2-for-5 on the power play in the clinching game; special teams were a problem for the Hogs in all three games.
Sunday’s elimination officially sends the entire Chicago Blackhawks organization to the offseason, beginning today (Monday). Some players have helped make a stronger case for an NHL spot next year, while others are heading into a summer with some uncertainty in their careers.
Kalynuk, forwards Andrei Altybarmakyan and Cameron Morrison and netminder Cale Morris are all restricted free agents this summer. Forward Kurtis Gabriel, who was the first player acquired via trade in Kyle Davidon’s tenure as interim general manager of the Blackhawks, is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
One player we’ll keep an eye on this summer is defenseman Nicolas Beaudin. The Blackhawks picked him with the 27th overall selection in the first-round of the 2018 NHL Draft (the first-round pick they received from Nashville in the trade that sent Ryan Hartman to the Preds). He’s appeared in at least one NHL game in each of his three professional seasons, but was a healthy scratch for Rockford in two of the three playoff games (he was active for the third game). With one year left on his contract but the blue line being increasingly crowded, Beaudin could be an odd man out this summer.
NOTE: since we’re headed into a summer (or two) where trade tree conversations are wrapped in context, let’s take a quick second to look back at the Hartman trade. The Blackhawks acquired forward Victor Ejdsell (whose size people fell in love with but he never came to North America after the trade), the first-round pick that became Beaudin and a fourth-round pick in 2018 that became Philipp Kurashev for Hartman and a fifth-round pick in 2018.
In 306 regular-season games since leaving Chicago, Hartman has produced 65 goals and 74 assists for the Preds, Flyers and Wild.